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Property taxes

Property taxes on a median-valued home would tick upwards under Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal at about the rate of inflation, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

But they would increase by less during the next two years than they would under the trajectory set by existing law, the bureau found — a consideration that could loom over budget negotiations should the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled Legislature reach the point where neither side can agree on a new spending plan.

GOP lawmakers cited the report as evidence Evers is determined to increase taxes and chart a different course from the tax-cutting approach of Republicans who controlled state government the last eight years.

Democrats defended Evers’ budget as balancing the interests of taxpayers with the need to support schools and local governments, which they said have been neglected in recent years.

The new Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimate projects Evers’ budget plan would cause the estimated net tax bill on a median-valued home to increase 2% next year and by 1.6% the year after that. The impact to individual property taxpayers would vary and could be more or less, depending on various factors.

Those numbers would be an uptick from the latest budget, in which property taxes increased by 1.1% more than a year ago and are estimated to have decreased by 0.2% on the most recent tax bill.

But it would be less of an increase than taxpayers would see under current law. Median property owners would pay $16 less in the first year and $13 less in the second, relative to what they would pay if no new budget were enacted — in which case, current spending levels would automatically continue into the next cycle.

The estimate finds statewide net property-tax levies would increase by 2.4% next year and by 2.1% in the second year of the biennium under Evers’ budget.

The increased tax bills are driven largely by Evers’ plan to boost by 2% the amount counties and municipalities could collect through local property tax levies.

But a countervailing effect comes from Evers’ plan to give a $1.4 billion infusion of state aid to school districts in the next two years. That would enable the state to shoulder a larger share, relative to local property taxpayers, of school district costs.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee, said in a statement that the report shows how Evers’ budget would mark a shift from budgets enacted under former Gov. Scott Walker.

“The fact is, the Governor’s budget raises property taxes by the largest amount in a decade,” Nygren said. “Republicans have a record of cutting taxes and remain committed to this goal, whereas the governor would rather increase taxes to grow government in Madison.”

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said part of the projected property tax increase is due to voters approving referendums to increase their property taxes to fund their local school districts — which she said Evers can’t control.

“But where Gov. Evers does have the ability to make a difference, his budget is making responsible choices to protect taxpayers,” Baldauff said in a statement.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said Evers’ budget balances the priorities of controlling property taxes with funding schools and other priorities.

“Gov. Evers put forth a budget that makes historic investments in education, health care and local governments throughout Wisconsin, and also provides lower property taxes for the average home than we would have under current state law,” Hintz said. “That would seem to be a pretty good place to be.”

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